By Adjoa J. Burrowes
(1) Can you tell us the events that inspired you to write Grandma's Purple Flowers?
Adjoa Burrowes: When I wrote this book, my baby boy was just a few months old. Life was sweet. I lived, along with my husband and two older children, in a beautiful wooded neighborhood in West Virginia. I savored the lush greenery around us and occasionally saw deer outside my kitchen window. I started writing just as the leaves began to change. Autumn is a favorite season of mine. In spite of all the beauty surrounding me, I deeply missed my mother and was somehow comforted by the promise that each season held. Fall's promise that green foliage will replace fallen leaves and winter's promise that flowers and warm weather will return.
(2) Are the characters in the book based on real people? If so, who were they and what were they like?
AB: The grandma in my story is loosely based on my paternal grandma, Annie Kate, who was born and reared in the South. She actually had the sun and moon design that I write about in the story, engraved in her teeth. After my mother died, my grandmother came up from Georgia on a Greyhound bus to help my Dad raise us. I was one of five kids. The youngest one of us was just five years old. The child in the book is based on my daughter, Hyacinth, who is now nine years old. Hyacinth is a very independent child, very loving and eager to help.
(3) How old were you when you first found out about death?
AB: My first conscious memory of death was at 13 when my mother died of a heart attack. She was 45. I was shocked. I felt like my life had ended, too. I had no words then to express what I felt. As a family we never talked about it. I just dealt with the whole thing on my own and in my own head.
(4) Have you had to teach your own children about death yet? If not, how do you plan on discussing this difficult topic?
AB: My children's ages vary so greatly that I've had to approach the topic differently with each, according to their ability to understand. The subject would come up in discussions about their grandparents mostly. They couldn't understand why they only had one grandparent (their dad's mom) when most of their friends had three or four. You see, by the time my children were born, both my parents had died and their father's dad, too.We've talked about how people die from old age and how sometimes people die from sickness or even from accidents. But, I explain, when you love someone, they live on in your memory, in your heart.
(5) How do you feel teachers and parents should, as role models, teach children about, and prepare them to face, death?
AB: I feel both parents and teachers can teach children about death by letting them know that it is a natural occurrence, that in all of nature, things die so that new life can come into being. You can prepare a child better by talking about death freely, answering questions that they have and helping them cope with feelings of loss. A good place to start, perhaps, is with the feelings of loss when a pet dies or a good friend moves away.
(6) In your book My Steps, the change of seasons is an important part of the story. In Grandma's Purple Flowers, we see this theme recur. Is this intentional or coincidental? What does the change of seasons represent to you?
AB: The change of seasons is intentional. As an artist, I get a great deal of pleasure from seasonal changes. The remarkable color of fall, the smell of rain in spring, the touch of snow, and the sound of summer birds. Each season holds such joy and wonder for me. Grandma's Purple Flowers is as much a celebration of nature as it is a validation of human emotion. I feel nature holds so many lessons for us—lessons of hope. Even though something may die (a leaf or flower), it somehow prepares us for something more to come.
About This Title
Interest Level:Grades 1 - 4
Reading Level:Grades 2 - 2
Colors, Overcoming Obstacles, Home, Grandparents, Friendship, Environment/Nature, Coping with Death, African/African American Interest, Earth/Sun/Moon System, Optimism/Enthusiasm
English Fiction Grades PreK-2, Early Fluent Dual Language, Mother's Day Collection, Death & Grief, Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades K-2, Grandparents Collection, Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, African American Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level N, Trauma-Informed Collection, Juneteenth Webinar Collection, Fluent English, Adjoa Burrowes Collection
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